Field Observations: Real-Time Data from the January 10 Storm and Flooding in Boston

Contributors: Kirk Bosma, Joe Christo, Chris Gloninger, Katie Lavallee, & Liz Nelson weaver (photos)

On January 10, 2024, Boston experienced a significant storm event that caused flooding throughout the city. The flooding at Long Wharf in Downtown Boston, East Pier Drive in East Boston, and other locations was captured on video by journalists and residents and shared on the news and social media.

Flooding at Long Wharf on January 10, 2024 (Photo by Liz Nelson Weaver)

Meanwhile, our team at the Stone Living Lab was gathering data via instrumentation that we have deployed

as part of our Real-Time Monitoring in Boston Harbor project, a project we launched this fall in collaboration with Woods Hole Group and the City of Boston. Collecting high-quality, continuous metocean time series data helps

the Lab and municipal partners like the City of Boston evaluate normal, changing climate, and storm conditions in Boston Harbor, which helps inform adaptation and resilience planning.

Please see below for a short summary of data readings and observations.

A Maserati being driven through floodwaters at Commercial Wharf on January 10, 2024 (Photo by Liz Nelson Weaver)

Context

At the Boston NOAA Tide Gauge, high tide peaked at 10:12am at 14.0 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), nearly 3.5 feet higher than the predicted high tide level.

Data from Stone Living Lab Hohonu Overland Flooding Sensors

This surge referenced above was also observed at our Hohonu overland flood stations throughout Boston (all in inundation depth, in feet above the ground surface).

  • Long Wharf, Downtown Boston: 2.2 feet at 10:06am on January 10
  • Border Street, East Boston: 1.9 feet at 10:12am on January 10
  • Tenean Beach, Dorchester: The footpath along the seawall experienced up to 2.8 feet of inundation, from 8:00am to 12:00pm on January 10, with the peak flooding at high tide at 10:12am

    Flooding behind the Chart House on Long Wharf in Downtown Boston (Photo by Liz Nelson Weaver)

Data from the Stone Living Lab Rainsford Island Meteorological Station

Our meteorological station on Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor recorded sustained wind speeds of up to 29 MPH, with gusts up to 40 MPH, at 2:00am on January 10.

Observations
  • These were amongst the highest levels of flooding ever scientifically observed at Long Wharf, Border Street, and Tenean Beach.
  • The water level at high tide was tied for the 6th highest water level recorded at the Boston Harbor tide gauge.
  • Other factors contributing to the significant flooding included: a lack of receding water at the previous low tide, persistent winds, a tight pressure gradient, and powerful atmospheric rivers (which make storms stronger via latent heat release)
Insights for the Upcoming Weekend
  • While the atmosphere hasn’t had a lot of time to recharge moisture content, an even more powerful storm system will move in this Friday night and Saturday morning. Expected impacts include storm surge of 3’ to 5’ along the coast, wind gusts of 60-80 MPH along the coast (first from the ESE then ending from the West), and rain from 1” to 2”.
  • Expect another ~18-hour surge event where water won’t be able to recede going into low tide, but gives us a higher jumping off point for high tide.

    A flooded Harborwalk between Central Wharf & India Wharf on January 10, 2024 (Photo by Liz Nelson Weaver)

About the Real-Time Monitoring in Boston Harbor project

This project – launched in the fall of 2023 in partnership with Woods Hole Group and the City of Boston – provides real-time monitoring of waves, water level, and meteorological parameters in and along Boston Harbor. The project is the next phase of work the Lab has conducted since 2021, and provides a continuous time series of metocean data to evaluate normal conditions, changing climate, and storm conditions in Boston Harbor. All systems work in real-time and will provide preliminary data to the web that can be viewed by the public as well as our researchers.